Friday, November 8, 2013

Ebba's Birth Story

Six years ago today, I attended my first birth. I was invited by close friends to be a part of this amazing day of their lives, and it was truly amazing. It was the mama's 3rd birth and her 3rd natural birth. She was brave and she was strong and she inspired me. It is very empowering to watch a live birth, especially a natural birth where you see how a woman's body is built to give birth. Not without pain or pressure or discomfort, but with strength and beauty and power.

I knew for sure from that day that I would seek natural child birth for my own birthing experiences. And I want to share the story of Ebba's arrival to simply share the joy of child birth and her arrival, which was perfect.

Ebba’s Birth Story

When I woke up that morning, giving birth was not even on my mind. The wind had been howling like crazy all night, and I was trying to figure out if I could even stay upright on my bike to get Simon to creche. Luckily, Martin had a dentist appointment that morning and so he dropped Simon and I off near his creche. I decided I would take trams to run a few errands.

I don’t know what would have happened if I had just stayed home, but I didn’t. It turns out that the crazy wind was part of a “code red” storm, with wind gusts of up to 160 km/hour. People were advised to stay home, and stay off bikes. I saw people blow over on their bikes and was very glad that at 8 months pregnant I had decided to stay off my bike for the day.

I dropped off 6 bags of Halloween candy for a community organized Trick-or-Treat Event that we were planning on going to for Halloween. I stopped by the Kraamzorg (home maternity nurse) office to let them know that I was 36 weeks pregnant and still hadn’t done my intake, and then I headed toward the center to run a few errands. I was trying to be productive on the 2 days/week I had without Simon, knowing these alone days were soon to be no more. (I had no idea how soon!)

But after a few minutes the tram stopped and announced that it was not going any further. A tree was down along the tracks so service was suspended. I continued walking to the center with everyone else. I saw a tree down in one of the canals. But I continued walking. Tram lines from the center to my house were still running, but I decided to get one thing done first. By the time I got back to the trams, all tram lines (and all trains in and out of Amsterdam) had been canceled. I had no choice but to walk home. I picked up some lunch and made it home, finally taking notice that I was feeling a bit off. By this time, I had been walking around the city for nearly 2.5 hours...

I had had a lot of Braxton Hicks contractions weeks 30-34, especially when walking, so I hadn’t really paid that much attention to the contractions I was having that morning. But as I sat down and turned on a movie, I decided I needed to pay attention. I downloaded an app for timing contractions, and quickly saw that they were 7 minutes apart. I laid down for a while and then took a bath, hoping this was just false labor brought on by all of the walking that morning.

When I got out of the bath, my contractions were less than 5 minutes apart. I realized I needed to do something, but I was still sort of in denial. I called Martin and told him he needed to get Simon at creche. When he asked what time he had to pick him up by, I told him I would prefer he leave now as I may be in labor. He was on his way.

I called my midwife who informed me she was on her way. This made me feel very good, to know that someone was coming to my house to assess the situation and help us make a decision about what to do next.

I started packing a hospital bag, with no idea what you are supposed to bring. I found the smallest baby clothes I could, a pair of loose pants for myself and some extra socks and threw them together in a bag.

Now I was most concerned with what to do with Simon. I made some calls to see who was available to come take care of Simon, and when they could get here. This was complicated by the fact that the city was in chaos with no public transport, trees down everywhere, and traffic at a virtual standstill. But thankfully my AMAZING cousins Lena and Emma came through, along with our neighbor Ans, and my mind was at ease that Simon would be in good hands.

Somehow I also managed to find a few minutes to Skype with my dad. I did not tell him what was going on, even though I was secretly tapping away at my contractions app to keep track of things.

Martin made it home with Simon, and shortly after the midwife arrived. She checked me and found that I was 2 cm dilated. Because I was only 36 weeks pregnant, this meant that we needed to head to the hospital. We called a cab and finally headed to the hospital at 5:00 pm. I got a hold of our doula, Jennifer, while we were enroute and she too headed to the hospital.

By 5:30 we were at the hospital and they were monitoring me to see if I was “really” in labor. Natasha, the hospital midwife said she would come back to check on me in an hour. However, in the next 20 minutes or so my contractions became considerably more difficult. My midwife contacted Natasha who immediately admitted us to delivery room “Florence.” We got settled in and my contractions continued to strengthen. The hospital midwife checked me again at 6:30pm and I was still 2 cm. While this could have been disheartening, I could feel the way my body was working and I knew that my little girl would be arriving shortly. My midwife from the Geboortecentrum left, as any time a birth becomes “medical” the hospital midwives take over care.

Jennifer and Martin supported me as contractions strengthened. Jennifer gently applied pressure to my back and Martin stayed in front of me, encouraging me and squeezing my hands. I was very focused on breathing, and was soon focused on that alone, blocking the rest of the world out.

At 7:55pm Natasha came in again to check me. I was now 5 cm dilated, and she said she would be back in 2 hours to see how things were progressing. I was clearly well on my way to having this baby.

At this point I decided I wanted to be on the toilet. I labored there for probably 25-30 minutes. I would not let Jennifer or Martin leave my side, as the contractions were almost constant now. Jennifer wisely suggested we move back to the bed, and I am not even sure how I managed to walk that far, but we made it.

I leaned against the bed for support, and things started changing rapidly. With each contraction I could now feel Ebba’s head charging through the birth canal. It was the most intense thing I have ever experienced! Natasha came in and found that I was fully dilated. My waters broke and I was bearing down with each contraction. Everyone helped me up onto the bed and within about a minute Ebba was born! I was standing on all fours, and I wouldn’t even say that I had to push. My body was doing the work and I just let it push her out on its own. I watched her slide right out of was so beautiful! My little girl was finally here at 8:37pm!

Here are some more pics - nothing too graphic!

Simon’s birth was so medicalized, and so far from what I had hoped for from a birthing experience. But it was what it needed to be, and I had made peace with that.
Proud big brother!
However I really wanted something different from this pregnancy. I wanted to experience pregnancy and birth to the fullest, but Ebba decided 36 weeks was her max. (Apparently my uterus is not all that cozy.) Nonetheless, I got what I was looking for. I experienced a totally natural birth, with no interruptions and no interventions. I was surrounded by supportive people who believed in me and my body and made it possible to have this amazing experience.

Most importantly I completely surrendered to my body, and my body knew exactly what to do. I never doubted myself or let fear enter my realm of focus. I have never loved my body as much as I did during those 2 hours! There is no other right of passage for a woman, or a human being, that can come close to the exhilaration of natural childbirth. I am so happy that I experienced it and got to welcome Ebba into the world as gently and naturally as I could!